Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Gris Gris Boucherie Ya Ya

Gail Has No Problem With Blood

Make George's Cravable Breakfast Sausage

Gail Simmons Won't Be Pushed Around

Make Doug's Winning Mussels

Tom Colicchio Answers Your Restaurant Wars Qs

Gail: It Wasn't Keriann's Day

Make Doug's Winning Braised Pork!

Gail: We Had a Tough Job This Week

Make Katsuji's Authentically Delicious Stuffing

Hugh: The Demise of Cornwallis and Aaron

Make Gregory's Winning Dumplings

Richard: Chefs Please Follow Instructions

Richard Tries Money Ball Soup

Make a Home Run-Worthy Popcorn Crème Brule

Hugh: Where There's a Will There's a Fenway

Gail: Keriann and Aaron Were Being ---holes

Make the Winning Surf and Turf

Gail: We're Taking No Prisoners

Richard Goes From Player to Announcer

Tom Talks Boston

Gail: There Was No Season 11 Underdog

Hugh Wants Nick to Be Kind to Himself

Gail: It Was Difficult to Let Go of Shirley

Big Easy to Ocean Breezy

Gail: The Final Four Are Like Our Children

Emeril Is Proud to Serve Shirley's Dish

Hugh: Enough With the Mexican Food Hate

Gail on Favreau, Choi, and Finding Yourself

Hugh on Poor Boys, Swingers and Food Trucks

Emeril: Nick's Choice Is Part of the Game

Nick's License to Immune

Hugh's Sitting on the Dock of the Bay

Hugh Decides Eight Is Enough

Gail Talks OvenGate

Dookie Chase Makes Everybody Cry

Fin, Found, Floundering

What Danny Meyer Taught Gail Simmons

'Top Chef' Goes to Hog Heaven

Brian and Travis' Dud Spuds

And Don't Call Me Shirley

Gris Gris Boucherie Ya Ya

Hugh Acheson reveals staining his shirt was the worst thing to happen during the pig challenge.

“Gooch,” says Sara. Sara is not enamored with being in the middle but really despises being in the bottom. She feels like she is the stones in each team's pockets, bringing them down to the bottom of the creek. I don’t think that was the cause of Patty’s demise but I am not there to add therapeutic word balms. Patty’s three years of experience have gone with her packed knives, and that small amount of experience may have contributed to her demise. I think to truly last through this you need years of clanging pots, dealing with the stress, and figuring out ways to get yourself our of them weeds. 

Mac Rebennack is in the house, but he’s dressed up like Dr. John. Mac is John, just so you’re following. More than that he is a legend of New Orleans music tradition. If you love American music of all shapes and sizes you need Dr. John’s Gumbo in your collection. It’s the standards, but no one does it better than Dr. John, the Night Tripper. 

Now understanding what the good Dr. is saying is another story. He’s a cosmic figure and sometimes understanding the utterings rely on hallucinogenic drugs, but at my age, that is out of the question. Luckily he is being subtitled. Love the outfit and the joie de vivire that John exhibits. When asked how he’s doing his response is a thankful, “I’m breathing.” Alrighty then 'cause I thought he said “I’m breeding.” Breathing is much more family-friendly. 

It’s a making hot sauce challenge and Dr. John wants many things including the elusive “hip tang.”  “flavornacity of the highest order,” and the very rare “tangnacity.” He want you to hit it with the “can’t quit.” Oh, and it’s “gotta be kickin’. "

Travis looks through his internal culinary encyclopedia and comes up with the eternal question, “What kind of hot sauce does John want?”

They cook and profile themselves, with Carlos making a Mexican hot sauce and Shirley making a Chinese one. We learn that Nicholas was nervous in his 20s… this is a truism, as we were all nervous wrecks at that age. Carrie hopes “this pirate can throw down with some heat.” Did she just hit on Dr. John? 

Brian cannot explain his hip tang. 

Shirley gets a "Wow, off the hook, yeah."

Carrie made a hot one. Tang is there, or is it?

Nicholas has made a hip tang Heinz 57 sauce.

Louis made Canadian delight, with fresno and maple syrup. Dr. John can’t get a handle on this one, and Louis is dead to him. 

Stephanie. Off da hook. He kinda likes it. Carlos goes Yucatan. Dr. John profiles Carlos profiling himself, and tells him that because he looks like he can make hot sauce it seems that he can make hot sauce. 

Nina goes Caribbean. Hot. Hot. My family lived in Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and Cuba for 100 years and my dearly departed grandmother Freda would make Scotch Bonnet jelly that would tear you up. They love heat in them islands. 

Justin goes umami. John likes this. 

Bottoms: Nicholas’ was muddled and Dr. J does not like the “sweet, sour maneuver”; Carrie’s was Trinidadidilly not great; Nina burned the house down, but not in a good way. Brian, Justin, and Carlos get the tops for their hot sauce. Winner is Brian. Immunity is granted. He did understand the hip tang. 

A porcine heavyweight contender is rolled out, flat on its back. It’s a beast. Toby and Donald Link are in attendance. Boucherie cooking is what’s up. Boucherie is the French term for butcher. The Cajun tradition is to celebrate the whole animal in a massive cookout while challenging your liver to alcohol acrobatics. 

Butchery pissing contests ensue. Chefs grab their parts and get to work on the pig before shopping. Shopping ensues, and then they get back to the house and eat a ton of boucherie food cooked by Toby and his lieges. I love me some backbone stew. 

They wake up to coffee and hangovers. On to the gator barn place. Donald and Padma do the walk and Tom and I do another walk. We eat. 

Sometimes they nail it -- all of them -- and the bottoms are a hard call. This was one of those times. They all cooked pretty badass food, so the letdowns were pretty small. 

Brian: Porchetta with Oyster Mushrooms

Sara: Pork Dim Sum with Crab and Shrimp Har Gow

Justin: Wood-Roasted Pork Breast Taco with Pork Liver Salsa Verde

Carlos: Pozole Verde with Fried Chorizo Tacos

Shirley: Jiaozi Dumpling with Pork, Grilled Kidney, and Crispy Pork Fat Salad

Louis: Slow-Grilled Pork Leg with Spring Onions, Shiitake Mushrooms, Melted Corn, and Popcorn

Stephanie: Pork Brodo with Braised Pork Belly and Summer Vegetable Pickle

Travis: Cajun-Style Pork Ramen with Pork Bone Broth and Collard Greens

Carrie: Crispy Trotters with Snap Peas and Pickled Onions

Nicholas: Tete de Cochon with Summer Beans, Lemongrass Vinaigrette, and Wheat Berries

Nina: Braised Pig's Head Ragu, Roasted Corn, and Mustard Greens

I got all dripped up on my nice Gant Rugger shirt, which has since been shrunk down by mistaken trips to the hot dryer. It now fits me, if I was 11 all over again. Gant Rugger, you all should send me another. Please. Drips on shirts was the worst thing that happened all day, 'cause otherwise it was a great event with great people. Very cool. As I write, I am listening to Dr. John sing his heart out, and the memories of that food, those people, and that wonderful place that is New Orleans are pretty awesome. 

Winner is Carlos with a kicking posole. It was a masterful dish. Smart, real, full of feeling -- everything great food should be. 

Somebody has to go, and Louis is the one. If a reason can be found, it’s that he just busied up good pork with some weird modern popcorn thing. He’s got a busy mind, and sometimes you just muddle purity. 

Let me tell ya though: I worry not about Louis. He’s immensely driven and wonderfully talented. He’ll go far in this world. Louis, let me know if I can help in any way. 

Follow me on Twitter @hughacheson.


Gail Simmons Won't Be Pushed Around

So she's going to take more time shopping at Whole Foods -- and ask for the best of Melissa's basket and Adam's shrimp. Let's dive right in. How did it feel to go shopping?
Gail Simmons: Shopping at Whole Foods was fantastic and hilarious. It made us realize that you need to be strategic, which was the point of the exercise for us. They gave us 30 minutes, but we took a little longer. We didn't let the producers push us around! We’re not contestants and we weren't going to stand for it! So, you realize how little time you have, and how big Whole Foods can be. You spend a lot of time running around.


My strategy with my pantry was to get a lot of fresh, delicious food that you can cook in lots of different ways. A good balance of proteins, fish, fruits, vegetables, spices, fresh herbs, grains. But I didn't want to get too much. Everyone has different strategies; Padma got a ton of different ingredients. Tom's pantry was very pared down. Richard and I were somewhere in the middle. Let's start by talking about the two dishes that came from your pantry?
GS: Katsuji and Melissa. They used the same protein, but their dishes were very different. They both used shrimp which one of the proteins that I bought. I bought something else too, something that I know has given people trouble in the past (which is why I specifically chose it) -- chicken wings. And I really wanted people to use them. Instead, they chose the easy way out because shrimps cook quickly.

Melissa's used a lot of fresh vegetables, which I was hoping she would: dill, mint, artichoke. I was so excited about all of it. I think it was beautifully done, a lovely salad with that little shrimp on top with spiced yogurt. But it was just a salad with a quick-cooking seafood. It was so similar to what she had done in Restaurant Wars when she made a scallop with grapefruit salad. I believe she could have done so much more. Melissa keeps saying she wanted to focus on her knife skills, and, of course, your knife skills have to be precise. But I need to see more than just knife skills. I want to see cooking skills, I want to see roasting skills, braising skills. I want to see her hands get a little dirtier and her dishes not be as superficial. It was a light, lovely dish. I was happy to eat it for lunch. But when you're competing against six other really talented chefs, we all want to see a little more depth. Katsuji on the other hand went big. He used his ingredients in a really powerful way. The potato salad, the poached shrimp had bold seasoning and I loved how they went together. It was a great dish. It may not have been the best of the day, but I was actually really happy with what he chose to make. So for the rest, let's talk about who was on top and who was on bottom.

GS: At the top there was Gregory who really was going for Padma's heart there. He did great with his coconut milk curry. A really balanced, powerful dish. But it's something we’ve seen from Gregory many times in the past. In fact, in the first challenge he made a similar spicy curry dish with chicken. As much as we thought it was a delicious bowl of food, it was so typical of what we expect from Gregory. George's food was really exciting for us. This was my first time tasting his food and meeting him on Top Chef. He did a great job. The kebab was moist, seasoned really well, and the lentils were beautiful too. My only small issue with the dish is I couldn't understand why he separated the lentils from the kebab in two separate dishes. Why not put lentils on the plate and the kebab right on top, with a dollop of the yogurt? It seemed a little bit disconnected to me. But all-in-all, a really strong dish. Doug had the winning dish of the night. He used Richard's crazy pantry in a way that I thought was smart, clear-cut, and creative. The chorizo and mussels and peppers, just how Tom said, go together well, as do the cauliflower and the garlic. There was sweetness, there was spice, it was light and fresh but had a soulful, rustic flavor we all loved. You could see use of technique. On the bottom were dishes that tried to stretch and didn’t come through. Mei did a great job overall, except her lamb was undercooked. You want lamb medium, medium rare, but the center of that meat was raw to the point where the texture was chewy and almost cold. It would have been better if she had been able to cook it five minutes longer. We talked about Melissa's mistakes already, which also landed her on the bottom. I totally applaud Adam for trying to make a quick-flash marinade. He's been in the middle for so long and he thought "I gotta go big or I gotta go home." He tried to go big and unfortunately, he went home because of that technique. I get the idea of what he was doing, I don't doubt that it could've been successful if it were perhaps done in a different setting, with a little more control. But the flash marinade of his shrimp did not cook it as needed. It was still grey, it was still raw, and the texture of raw shrimp is not appealing. It's squeaky, it's squishy, and it becomes sort of mushy. We wanted it firm and cooked through. It's not like fish that you can eat sashimi-style Unfortunately Adam's hard work, his big risk sent him home.

I will miss him. I think he's an incredibly articulate, clever chef. I think he has an extraordinary career ahead of him. I'm excited to see him back in New York City. I can't wait to eat his food again. Also I want to say of this entire episode that was it was thrilling to see our superfans in the kitchen. We've never let people come into the kitchen in that way before, even though people ask us all the time. It brought so much good energy to have basically a live audience with us for the day. Everyone was so psyched. It was amazing to be around people who really love the show, to let them eat food from our talented chefs. SO much fun!